How is it when you as a student meet Prince Charles and you have a unique opportunity to present him your work?
They are used to going to conferences, where they present their research to aces of the academic world. But at the end of March a few students of Masaryk University tried something rather different: they presented their research to the Prince of Wales, who had expressed the wish for a discussion with students of Masaryk University on environmental protection to take place within his official visit to the Czech Republic.
Among those who had the opportunity to introduce their work to Prince Charles was doctoral student of Geography Olga Bohuslavová. To begin with she didn’t know whom she would be meeting. “Professor Prošek called me, but it was only much later that he told me it was somebody from the Royal Family,” she remembers. It was from the website of the British Embassy in Prague that she found out she would be talking to the heir to the British throne. “The fact that Prince Charles was coming to the Czech Republic had been known for a couple of weeks. At the university we were hiding something that the public had known for quite a while,” Olga smiles.
What made Olga deserving of a place among the two dozen students chosen? Above all her work in research connected with climate change. She is part of the research team which works in Antarctica, where she pursues her interest in the ecology of lichens. Also her ability to speak English with ease was important. “But I and my friends still watched the Prince’s speeches on the internet beforehand to make sure we had a perfect understanding of his English,” she confesses.
The meeting with Prince Charles passed incredibly quickly; his programme in the Czech Republic was planned minute by minute. Each of students had exactly three minutes for her presentation, which was to be in the spirit of popular science. But this didn´t mean that the students just talked and Prince sat and nodded his head in the manner of an examiner. “The Prince interrupted us quite a lot, asking about the research and also joking a bit. For example, I showed him photos of the research team in Antarctica and he looked for me among the people in caps and anoraks. And he found me,” says Olga Bohuslavová with a smile. The young scientist admits that she was very nervous before the meeting, but the famous visitor put her at her ease. “Everything went very naturally,” she adds.
The Czech media – aware that the debate was taking place – were very interested in the students involved. Although Olga Bohuslavová is used to attention from the time she has spent as the only woman researcher at the polar station in Antarctica, she was taken by surprise. For all this she doesn’t consider herself to be anyone special. “I was just at the right place at the right time,” the student of the Faculty of Science says, before adding that she greatly appreciates the opportunity she was given. “Meeting Prince Charles was a really great experience for me.”